Our First Mix Revisited

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Celeste Leander and Carla Paterson about their UBCmix project from last Fall. As I walked into the room, I could already tell that these two had made a deep friendship as they exchanged the latest news of their personal lives. I was quickly to realize that their pedagogical partnership was just as profound.

The Partnership

Celeste and Carla were at a TAG meeting on campus when they met with Geoff Costeloe and David Ng. After a short conversation, they knew that UBCmix was something they wanted to do.

Carla Paterson’s training in the history of science certainly helped. She’s cross-appointed between History and Engineering. But she knew she’d met a fellow interdisciplinarian in Celeste who teaches biology for Science One, a freshmen mixed Science curriculum.

“We went a little overboard,” Celeste started, “It started off as one term project and it just grew.”

The two had originally just wanted their students to partner together to identify five species of native coniferous trees and to explore indigenous people’s knowledge about them. Students had the UBC Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Anthropology as their resource base. Each team consisted of two Science One and one or two HIST104 students. They were to prepare a short movie or a PowerPoint lecture. There was even a prize for the most creative project.

But as they worked together, they formalized a deeper relationship. They planned four lectures together. Carla introduced the Science students to key thinkers such as Charles Darwin and Rachel Carson and Celeste inducted the History students into ecology. They even formalized an e-mail pen pal program that exchanged messages after each joint class.

The Benefits

When asked what she got out of the Mix partnership, Carla did not even hesitate.

“It was fun,” she said, “And I’m a big believer in collaborative work.”

The opportunity to make a connection easily trumped the extra work. The two had several meetings over the summer to discuss their strategy but that just seems to have consolidated their friendship. And of course there was extra grading. They used the funds they received from UBCmix to employ a TA to grade the e-mail pen pal assignment.

I asked about how their students benefitted from the assignment.

“My students benefitted completely,” answered Carla. “They really enjoyed the opportunity to do something new.”

“The Science students were able to make a lot of new personal connections,” added Celeste. They take 26 credits together during the Science One program and this was an opportunity to go out and meet students from other disciplines.”

Did they learn more about each other’s work?

“The Science One students were amazed that the History students read entire books.”

“Well, selections of an entire book,” Carla corrected with a smile.

Advice to new UBCmix instructors

The two are already well into planning their next Mix class. I can only mention that there’s a comic strip worm involved.

So what advice do they have for new UBCmix instructors?

“Start small and see.”

Carla piped in: “And book a large lecture room!”

New instructors need not worry about losing curriculum content.

“I only marginally modified previous lecture material for the joint lectures,” said Celeste.

Both Carla and Celeste felt that they had gained much more course content out of their partnership.

And a final piece of advice?

“Go for it. It’s fun!”

Photo Credit: kennymatic


UBC MIX Program! (Sounds like a dating service, but not really)

[Note: this is a repost from a Terry Project Blog posting by David Ng. You can view the original here.]

Just a little heads up that the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund has kindly green lighted funding for Geoff’s TEDxTt2008 Wish. Which, in case, you don’t recall, was all about figuring out how to get students of different disciplines to interact more in their classes.

In grant speak, this means that:

“UBC MIX aims to create lightweight and flexible partnerships between courses that allow students from different disciplines to interact on an academic level. Trek 2010 “recognizes interdisciplinarity as an important principle in academic planning.” UBC operates a wide variety of excellent joint degree and interdisciplinary degree programs. However, joint and interdisciplinary programs require a significant amount of commitment from both the students enrolled in these programs and the faculty members coordinating them. UBC MIX is an attempt to deliver interdisciplinary education on a much more accessible and less resource-intensive basis – i.e., between two courses already in existence. There are many opportunities to develop this kind of collaboration between courses at UBC. For example, the first UBC MIX pilot partnership brings together HIST 104 and Science One Biology and includes student interactions across the Faculties of Arts & Sciences around joint curricula exploring the ecology of BC’s First Nations peoples. With the UBC MIX project, our main objective is to facilitate and support additional course partnerships to provide a broader range of opportunities for interdisciplinary student learning at UBC.”

This is cool because I think the idea of mixing classes is very interesting, and certainly worth a go. Plus, as someone who has gone through the very formal mechanisms of getting course approval, it’s freaking brilliant to do this MIXING in informal ways (i.e. ways that are small enough so that they don’t require a faculty curriculum committee – examples include things like joint assignments or fieldtrips).

As an aside, this news is also cool because it’s technically our first wish via the TEDxTerrytalks process, as well as having the distinction of what might be considered a “TEDx related Wish” as well. This goes to show that programs like this, in principle, can be effective in mobilizing initiatives at least at the smaller scale.

Woo hoo… Anyway, just had to share.

First step? Who are the great professors and instructors on campus who would totally dig this. Suggestions in the comments section please…


Tapestry Article

This is a repost of an article published in Tapestry magazine, Issue 55 (2009/2010) pp. 12-13.

Get in the MIX! A New Way to Bring Interdisciplinary Learning to More Students
by: Geoff Costeloe, Terry Project Assistant

Photo Caption: Carla and Celeste partnered on a tree-related project for students in their classes

Editor’s note: Geoff appeared at my door, along with colleagues Shagufta Pasta, fellow Terry Project Assistant and Dave Ng, Director of the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory (AMBL) at the Michael Smith Laboratories, to update me on Terry Talks, one of the many programs on campus that has a sustainability connection. Geoff, a 5th year student pursuing a double major in Integrated Science and Political Science, initiated UBC MIX through his interest in extending his own positive experience with interdisciplinary learning, through the Integrated Sciences Program, to all students.

UBC MIX grew out of the ‘Wish’ talk Geoff gave at the successful 2008 Terry Talks Conference. In his talk, he dubbed the idea IF: The Integrated Forum. The project was endorsed by the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), a part of the Clinton Global Initiative that encourages and enables students to make changes to their world. Geoff attended the CGIU conference in Austin, Texas and discussed his plans with students from around the world. Geoff, who himself has traveled all over the world is interested in education’s role on global issues.

The project, refocused and renamed UBC MIX, aims to make any class on campus accessible to interdisciplinary teaching and learning. It is simple, effective and not resource- or time-consuming. There are even perks for the faculty members involved.

The integration of teaching and learning across faculties and disciplines is becoming a more and more popular discussion topic around our campus. From first year programs such as Science One and Arts One, to degree granting programs such as Integrated Sciences and International Relations, UBC offers a wide array
of opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. These are well respected programs that have one thing in common: they leave a positive, lasting impression on a student’s education and university experience.

As successful as these programs are, there are some setbacks with the current approach to interdisciplinary education. Interdisciplinary courses and programs rely on the dedication of faculty members for development, teaching, and administration. Students have to commit to taking a full course or major program in order to experience the benefits of an interdisciplinary learning community, something that many are unable to manage due to their already cramped schedules. As a result the vast majority of students go through their time at UBC without exposure to concepts and perspectives outside of their main field of study, and with little opportunity to explore how other disciplines and subjects are related and relevant to their work and their future. Despite the benefits of current programs, some measurable by NSSE, (see http://www.pair.ubc.ca/surveys/nsse/ for more information) there have been few initiatives that promise to bring interdisciplinary learning to a larger proportion of the undergraduate community. What is needed is a new way of approaching interdisciplinary study. This approach must be flexible and relatively easy to manage. It must be effective across disciplines and in different classroom settings, without the need for extensive curriculum readjustment or extra work for already be- leaguered faculty members. UBC MIX hopes to do all of this and more.

UBC MIX works through developing cross-discipline and cross- faculty partnerships between courses already taught at UBC. UBC MIX helps pairs of faculty members make small adjustments to their class curricula that can mix, or bring together, students of two different courses. The partnership could involve one or two joint lectures, electronic ‘pen-pal’ communication between the classes, a mixed-group project, or anything else the faculty members think would be valuable to their students. The idea is to complement the curriculum of both classes by exploring the links between them, exposing the students to new ideas and points of view. It is also important to ensure that there is no additional workload on students or faculty. Assignments are ‘tweaked’, not added, to allow the partnership to interact.

UBC MIX already has one exciting partnership underway involving Celeste Leander, who teaches Biology in Science One, Faculty of Science and Carla Paterson, who teaches History in the Faculty of Arts as well as Civil Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Sciences. Working with students in Science One and in History 104 this past Fall, they used a variety of classroom activities to draw on major themes from both classes. One example was a project about trees around campus. Students from the two classes formed groups, found and identified trees in the local UBC ecosystem, taking photos of themselves in front of them, then gave short presentations on the tree species and it historical uses in BC aboriginal communities. This was a chance for students to learn from each other and put the skills and knowledge they take from class and put them into practice.

There are lots of reasons that a UBC MIX partnership could benefit faculty members as well. Just as partnerships help break down barriers between students in different faculties, they can also help to bring new ideas into the lives of faculty members. Celeste and Carla were excited to learn more about each other’s area of expertise.

There are other perks for faculty members too. UBC MIX provides funding to partnerships that could be used for extra resources, field trips or to hire a TA or Graduate Academic Assistant.

Interested? UBC MIX is currently looking for faculty members to form partnerships. Check out www.terry.ubc.ca/mix or e-mail <ubcmix@gmail.com> for details about current partnerships and the benefits of getting involved in UBC MIX.

UBC MIX has been recognized by the Student Leadership Conference and will be a featured project that Geoff will present on January 9, 2010 http://slc.ubc.ca. You can see Geoff’s Terry Talk as well as eight other awesome student speakers at www.terry.ubc.ca/terrytalks; view photos from Terry Talks 2008 at www.flickr.com/photos/terrytalks.



As part of the selection process for Terry talks 2008, each speaker was asked to make a wish, of which one was chosen for the campus to develop. The 2008 wish was from Integrated Science and Political Science student Geoff Costeloe and called UBC MIX to create interdisciplinary classroom partnerships, exposing students to new ideas and experiences.

UBC MIX develops cross-discipline and cross-faculty partnerships between courses already taught at UBC. It helps two faculty members make small adjustments to their class curricula that can bring together students from two courses. The partnership could involve one or two joint lectures, electronic ‘pen-pal’ communication between the classes, a mixed-group project, or anything else the faculty members think would be valuable to the students. The idea is to compliment the curricula of both classes by exploring the links between them, exposing the students to new ideas.

Celeste Leander, who teaches Science One Biology, and Carla Paterson from HIST 104 will be giving UBC MIX a shot in September. They will be using a variety of classroom activities that will draw on major themes from both classes. One activity is a project looking at trees around campus. Students from each class will be partnered together. They will have to find and identify trees in the UBC community, take a photo of themselves in front of it, then give a short presentation on the tree and it historical uses in B.C. aboriginal communities. It is a chance for students to learn from each other and put the skills and knowledge they take from class and put them into practice.

UBC MIX is currently looking for interested faculty members to form partnerships.
For more information visit: www.terry.ubc.ca/mix.

Originally published in UBC Reports – Source

Photo Credit: fboudville


Ubyssey Article

UBC MIX offers a casual learning environment

By Samantha Jung

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Combining History and Biology seems like an odd pairing for a class assignment, but Geoff Costeloe doesn’t think so. It’s the basis for the first UBC Mix pairing, a new interdisciplinary venture at UBC.

Costeloe is a blogger for UBC’s Terry website, which promotes interdisciplinary studies and learning. He gave a presentation at last November’s Terry Talks, Terry’s first speaker series exclusively featuring students talking about current and relevant issues. Students at Terry Talks chose one person as that year’s “Wish” speaker, and they received funding to make their “wish” come true.

Costeloe told students that “students, society and academics have a one dimensional way of viewing issues” and proposed an Integrated Forum (IF) as a way to bridge that gap between faculties. Students chose Costeloe as the “wish” speaker, IF was changed to UBC Mix, and he went to work.

The idea behind UBC Mix is to create a more casual environment for students across faculties to interact with one another. Costeloe said that there are quite a few interdisciplinary courses at UBC, but they are structured and don’t offer flexibility. “Professors are busy and they don’t have a lot of time to make up courses and do that kind of stuff,” he said.

UBC Mix’s first pairing is History 104 with sessional lecturer Carla Paterson, and Science One Biology with professor Celeste Leander and is scheduled to take place during the fall semester. Proposed ideas for interactions between students include joint classes, a pen-pal project and a joint project on the biological and cultural significance of coniferous trees.

A few problems Costeloe has run into include large class sizes, scheduling issues and the fact that he is pressed for time because he started the project late in the year. He said that he is working on a few more partnerships for January.

He also said that faculty should be driving this project. “Our role is really going to be helping make sure it works out,” he said. “We also have the money; we’re willing to hire TAs to mark assignments, to help students out.”

Costeloe has gotten positive feedback from his colleagues. “It’s great,” said Paterson, “and what I think is really brilliant about it is the emphasis is on informal partnership…and so this bypasses all this bureaucracy.”

Political Science professor and co-founder of the Terry project Allen Sens is excited. “I think it’s potentially a very big step, because much of what the Terry project has done are very focused projects,” he said. “What UBC MIX promises is using its own course structures rather than adding big, new elements.”

“The benefits potentially are quite large.”

Original article from the Ubyssey – source

Photo Credit: dsevilla


Terry Wish Update #1

Although, I would love to apply the famous words of Mary Shelly’s Dr. Frankenstein, “Its alive!!!” to the 2008 Wish “Its still alive!!” may be more accurate.

Many of you may have thought the contrary. Thought that no work had been done on the Wish and it had slowly disintegrated in the minds of those who were supposed to guide its progress from wish to reality. Well fellow Terry supporters, I’m here to tell you that this is not the case.

Progress has been made in the Wish. The biggest change you might notice is a refinement in its scope. When I first presented the Wish (here) it had a very long list of things that would be included: a conference, a website, a kind of academic-Facebook, and the ability for independent classes to explore tangible links between disciplines. In regards to most of these plans, they have been placed on hold.

There are two major reasons for this. Firstly, each of these dreams is a project in and of itself. We just don’t have the man-power, money, or time to see them all through. That doesn’t mean that they won’t happen, I just think that we need to prioritize something so that we can get it done and have something to show for it. Secondly, there is a risk in some of these goals of being redundant. There are so many services, groups, and projects at UBC that it is hard to find something that no one else is trying. For example, the Terry website is a great place to engage students on crossdiscipline issues. Because of this, I’ve focused in on what I believe to be a truly unique and central part of what was presented as IF: the classroom partnerships.

Running with this new focus, there have been several successes. Firstly, after an application process I was selected to attend the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative University meeting in Austin, TX. This is a conference where university students from all over the world come together to discuss projects that they are working that produce ‘real, measurable, tangible goals’ the work to solve global problems. The focus issues are Education, Energy and Climate Change, Global Health, and Human Rights and Peace. Students just like us are doing fantastic things and changing the world. Check out all the details here. I met lots of awesome students as well as important individuals (notably Paul Begala, Myron Rolle, Natalie Portman, and sexy Matthew McConaughey). I even had a chance to briefly speak to the former President himself and describe IF in about 45 seconds. He said he liked it (and I almost fainted with joy).

At the end of it all, the project became not only a Terry Wish, but also a CGIU Commitment to Action, which provides it increased awareness and legitimacy.

There has also been a bit of a name change to the project. As attached as I was to IF, Integrated Forum just doesn’t describe the renewed focus. We are now functioning under the working title of UBC MIX (as in mix up your education). It doesn’t stand for anything…but who cares; its catchy as hell, memorable, and conveys what the project is trying to do.

Now I’m in the process of making UBC MIX a reality. How do we do this? We start by finding professors and instructors who might be interested in, and excited about giving it a shot. If we can find enough interest we are going to try to get some partnerships off the ground to run some pilot partnerships this September.

What exactly does a partnership entail? This is the great part about the project. A classroom partnership can be as deep or as shallow as the two profs want. It could be as extensive as an assignment pairing up students from two disciplines to accomplish a task requiring both of their unique skills, to casual discussions surrounding how the two fields are connected. It is simple, flexible, but most importantly tangible. With some dedicated faculty, this could really add some relevance to UBC students degrees.

That’s where you come in. Have you had an instructor who you think would be perfect for MIX? If so then send an e-mail to ubc.mix@gmail.com with your suggestions. And stay tuned for more updates (they will come more frequently now).

We’re back in business.